How are you when it comes to making decisions? Do you like to make decisions quickly and get on with the decision? Do you prefer to gather all the information and make as informed decision? Do you wait as long as possible and make a decision only when you have to? Do you prefer others to make choices for you? Maybe it depends on the kind of decision you are being asked to make?
All of us make choices every day. Some of these choices we hardly even recognise while others make us stop and think. Some of the things we do can become so routine we don’t even think we’ve made a choice – like having a shower this morning or brushing our hair. Some choices we make reactively, on the spur of the moment or what feels right at the time. Other choices we take our time over so it can be well considered.
Making choices can seem daunting as we have to live with the outcome of the choices that we make. It can stop us from wanting to make a choice. Failing to make a choice is, however, a choice that we make. It is a choice to stay with the status quo, to choose the path of least resistance, to go with the flow. Sometimes this is the wise choice but other times we need to be bold and make choices that may be difficult. Choices to not conform to the ways of the world or the way “it has always been done”.
In the Deuteronomy reading for this week God is presenting the people with a choice between life and prosperity or death and adversity. The Israelite people had for generations been slaves in Egypt oppressed by the powerful Pharaoh. Using Moses, God led the people out of slavery into freedom. For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness and God journeyed with them and gave them the Ten Commandments or the ten ways to live in right relationship with God and others. As they were finally entering the promised land God presents them with this choice, life or death – choose life! It seems like a no brainer but as the bible shows time and time again people choose death and adversity. Time and again we choose to worship other gods. For the Israelite people the temptation was to worship the Canaanite gods who seemed to be more controllable and could be bribed with offerings rather than their God who self-revealed with the cryptic name, “I am who I am” (Exod.3.14).
Today we are still tempted to worship other “gods” such as the holy dollar, the Emperor Economy. We put leaders and the rich and powerful on pedestals and worship them over God.
Like the Israelites we are tempted by power and doing things how we have seen them done in the past. The Israelites had a choice and so do we. When we have power do we use it to oppress and control, happy that we are not on the receiving end but the one wielding the power? Do we “remember” what it was like to be in slavery – to be in a foreign land and the importance of treating people with compassion, love and grace? Most of us do not have personal memories of this sort of oppression but they are part of our faith stories, part of the heritage that has been handed down to us.
So often we think we are choosing life when what we are really choosing is wealth, power or prestige and it is always at someone else’s expense. When God put before the Israelites the choice he was asking the community to make a choice for the community and not just for themselves but for humanity and all of creation. As disciples of Christ we are called to servant leadership. We are called to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. Who is our neighbour? Our neighbour is everyone in need, the homeless, the poor, the outcast, the stranger the refugees and even my enemy!
Rev Tammy Hollands